Controversial Broncos prop Matt Lodge could be hit with the first suspension of the new NRL campaign after a shocking late tackle in the season opener.
The Melbourne Storm triumphed 22-12 in a thrilling match to extend coach Craig Bellamy’s extraordinary record of having never lost a round one NRL match.
However, it was a controversial early incident that provided the game’s first flash point.
FAN MOCKERY: NRL cops it over new season’s first issue
Lodge earned the ire of the referees and fans after a hit on Melbourne’s Cameron Munster at AAMI Park on Thursday night.
The match wasn’t even a minute old when Lodge launched himself at the Storm playmaker as he attempted to kick the footy downfield.
Munster managed to get the kick away but he had his legs wiped out from underneath him by the Broncos big man.
Lodge was penalised but not placed on report for the dangerous contact, with commentators convinced he may be in a spot of bother with the Match Review Committee.
“We see plenty of penalties in the game where the player makes contact, that was one of the dangerous ones,” Fox Sports commentator Greg Alexander said.
“That’s why the rule was brought in to protect players in that sort of situation. Both legs in the air and hit with some force.
“Matthew Lodge could find himself in a little bit of trouble with the Match Review Committee.
Fans were scathing of the incident on social media, accusing Lodge of a deliberate “low act”.
— Sports Freakshow ⚽🏈🏉🏀⚾🏏 (@aussiebeastmode) March 14, 2019
Lodge to Munster's knee: "Tonight is the night that you die"
— Random Footy Facts (@footyfacts37) March 14, 2019
There’s the first suspension of the year in the first set of six. Matt Lodge with a low act on Munster.
— Todd Balym (@balymt) March 14, 2019
— Chris Halley (@christ_halley) March 14, 2019
Lodge ripping through Munster’s leg like he’s a New York apartment #NRLStormBroncos
— Jack Martin (@daddyjack1997) March 14, 2019
Only 2 minutes in and we might have our first player to face the match review after Matt Lodge went at the legs of Cam Munster after kicking downfield#NRLStormBroncos
— NothingButLeague – rugby league website (@NothingButRL) March 14, 2019
Matt Lodge in trouble after taking Cameron Munster’s legs while in the air? Looked very dangerous! #NRLStormBroncos
— Fatima Kdouh (@FatimaKdouh_) March 14, 2019
Surely this poor excuse for a human being gets suspended for this. I don’t even like the Storm but seriously Lodge wasn’t looking to do anything else but injure Munster here. I’m all for blokes getting hit hard but this was gross.#GrubPersonified #NRL #StormVsBroncos pic.twitter.com/6bepYQVjIT
— Kyle Sharpe (@I_AmKyleSharpe) March 14, 2019
— NRL (@NRL) March 14, 2019
Jahrome Hughes had the honour of scoring the first try of the season – Billy Slater’s replacement at fullback crashing over in the corner.
Curtis Scott soon doubled the home side’s advantage after pouncing on a loose ball and racing almost the length of the field to score.
Kenny Bromwich scored Melbourne’s third early in the second half, with skipper Cameron Smith adding the extras for a 16-0 lead.
The Broncos finally hit back just before the hour mark as winger Corey Oates beat a couple of Storm defenders to cross near the corner.
Incredibly, Oates then broke through the Melbourne defence again moments later to grab his second try of the night to make it 16-12.
Just as the Broncos looked to be coming home with a wet sail, Jesse Bromwich scored for the Storm to help restore the home side’s 10-point buffer.
Slater himself was honoured before kick-off, with the unveiling of the stand that now bears his name at AAMI Park.
The legendary fullback’s wife and kids were alongside him for the momentous occasion, in a touching pre-game moment.